130: False accusations
Israel's judges sat in a great semi-circle. They had been called together in the middle of the night for this urgent meeting.The punishment that brings us peace was laid upon Him. Through the lashes He received, we are healed.
In the flickering light of the torches and lamps, they hid their wicked joy and delight behind false earnestness.
The cruel, callous armed servants were also in the room. Outside the room the witnesses waited. They were eager for the reward they would receive when they said all sorts of bad things about Jesus.
Among all those godless people stood the Son of God, innocent but bound like a criminal. He faced them all like a king. He was calm. His eyes did not seek the floor although leering, contemptuous looks met Him from all sides. It almost seemed as if He were to judge all those well-dressed murderers.
How could they accuse Him? They all knew that He had done nothing wrong. Therefore they produced men who would lie if they were paid for it.
Many witnesses were called. The judges hoped that two witnesses would make the very same accusation. The law required that. Only if there were two witnesses to back up a certain accusation could an accused person be found guilty.
As more witnesses were called, the judges became desperate, for the witnesses contradicted each other. Jesus listened to their slander in silence. He did not have to make any effort to defend Himself.
At last two witnesses told basically the same story. "He spoke scornfully in the holy temple," they testified. "He said, 'I will break down God's temple, and within three days I will build it up again'!"
Suddenly the judges had hope, for that was a very serious charge. The temple was the holy house of the Lord. Anyone who spoke scornfully of it offended God and was guilty of sacrilege. That sin could be punished only by death.
Caiaphas, the high priest, leered at his prisoner in triumph. What would Jesus say in response to this charge?
Caiaphas knew perfectly well that Jesus had never made that foolish statement. If Caiaphas questioned these false witnesses, it would soon become clear that they had twisted Jesus' words. But let Jesus prove that He had not said it.
Jesus was silent. He would not defend Himself against such an unworthy accusation. Three years earlier He had indeed referred to His body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. He had said that His body would be broken and raised up again after three days. That very day His body would indeed be broken. On the third day His body would rise from the grave.
When Jesus remained silent, Caiaphas began to tremble with anger and impatience. He stood up and shouted, "Don't You have anything to say? What are these men accusing You of?"
Jesus fixed His eyes calmly on Caiaphas. He was waiting for a question that was bound to be asked eventually. By remaining silent, He forced Caiaphas to ask that question. It was Caiaphas's last hope. He said, "I charge You under oath by the living God: tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God."
At last Jesus answered. In the deep stillness that filled the room after this question, His powerful voice resounded clearly: "I am indeed the Christ. You shall see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven."
Caiaphas jumped up at once and acted outraged by this answer. With both hands he reached for the top part of the beautiful, sky-blue priest's robe he was wearing. He tore it in false rage as a sign that he was greatly offended. That robe was never supposed to be torn.
"He has blasphemed God!" he cried out in mock rage. "Why do we want witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy with your own ears. What is your verdict?"
The excited judges jumped up and screamed together, "He deserves to die!"
They crowded around the man they had condemned to death. He stood, innocent, with His head high. All the hatred in those well-dressed murderers was now unleashed. Grinding their teeth, they milled around Him, pouring scorn on Him, mocking Him, spitting in His face, hitting Him with their fists.
The servants joined in. They covered Jesus' head with a filthy rag and began to beat Him.
Scornfully, they said, "Aren't You the Christ, who knows everything? Prophesy to us, Christ; who hit You?" They thought of many more ways to plague Him and hurt Him and humiliate Him.
Still, no lightning struck the high priest's palace, to destroy Jesus' tormentors. The angels did not come down from heaven to rescue their Lord. God was silent.
The Son of God was silent too. He suffered, and bore all the abuse without complaining. As the blood began to flow down His face, only thoughts of love went through His mind. He thought of all those who would be redeemed through His suffering.
The light of the torches faded. The first pale light of the new day came into the room.